Ah, the seventies: flared trousers, flammable nylon, in-your-face racism and school custard with the consistency of skimmed milk. But you know what; it wasn’t all bad, because on Saturday nights (having spend the day bouncing off the walls after Tiswas) we had the Six Million Dollar Man: the story of Steve Austin, astronaut and test pilot, horrifically injured in a plane crash and rebuilt as a cyborg to be better than he was before; better, faster, stron—anyway, even if you don’t remember it I’m sure you get the idea. As entertaining as it was ridiculous, the Six Million Dollar Man ran for five seasons and spawned a reasonably successful spinoff (The Bionic Woman) that ran for another three. It was also the forerunner for just about every cyborg-related super-hero/villain you’ll see today; some we love (Inspector Gadget), and some we hate (The Terminator). Over the years, there’s been talk of a movie revival (I think Will Smith was mooted to play Austin one point), but nothing every came of it.
Well, actually it did: not a movie, but a comic series – and I had no idea. It’s been out for a couple of years, and I only found out when I stumbled across a picture from one of the comics on the interweb:
And on the strength of that, I bought the first omnibus, and I can tell you, it’s been an absolute treat. Kevin Smith (is that the same guy with the baseball cap?) deserves a comic oscar or something for this.
Season one was great, but the second run of this off-beat superhero caper turned out to be my binge choice for the summer.
Picking up straight after their temporal escape from the first season’s destruction of planet Earth (pretty much their fault), our barely competent crew of metahuman misfits land in the sixties, where they have to contend with the awakening the civil rights movement, same-sex relationships, an organisation of assassins tasked with maintaining the integrity of the timeline, the assassination of Kennedy, and a nuclear holocaust that is six days away (again, mostly their fault).
With so much to pack into ten episodes, it cracks along, but amazingly, doesn’t feel rushed. There’s plenty of time and space to delve into Black oppression, attitudes to homosexuality, love, sacrifice and being willing to do anything for your family … even when you despise them.
Warning! There’s a prediction/possible spoiler near the end!
In my less-than-humble opinion, a TV series based on a movie based on a graphic novel is never going to go well. It’s a bit like the sci-fi view of cloning: successive copies are always a little less perfect than the first generation.
The Watchmen franchise has managed to get around this by making a perfect copy of the original, and then pretty much rewriting the original for the TV series. So far, the results are … encouraging. Couple of things to bear in mind though: